LOS ANGELES – The Bleep Happens season of 2013 reached a low point Sunday afternoon when the Phillies came within one out of being shut out for the eighth time in a demoralizing 6-1 loss to the sizzling Los Angeles Dodgers at sizzling Dodger Stadium (see Instant Replay).
The loss dropped the Phillies to a season-high 9 1/2 games out of first-place in the NL East. They are 7 1/2 games out of the second wild-card spot with four teams ahead of them.
The calendar flips to July on Monday and on Tuesday the Phillies open a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have the best record in baseball. After that series, the Phils play seven games against division rivals Atlanta and Washington at home. These 10 games will go a long way in management’s decision whether to keep the team together or to start selling off talent like Michael Young, Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Papelbon or even Chase Utley if the franchise has the stomach to part with a favorite son.
The Phils won two of three in San Diego then lost three of four to the surging Dodgers. They are 3-4 on the trip.
Sunday’s loss was another in a long line of lifeless showings by the Phillies. They had four hits entering the ninth inning. They were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position entering the ninth. On the other side, the Dodgers had 14 hits – four by phenom Yasiel Puig – and ran wild on the bases. Umpire Dale Scott appeared to miss two calls on the bases that went against the Phils, but in the end, the Dodgers were simply superior.
“Basically, they outplayed us,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “They got on, they stole, they set themselves up to manufacture runs. They took advantage of the fact we couldn’t stop them.”
Manuel was disappointed by his team’s showing in the series.
Jimmy Rollins was not.
“No,” he said. “I’m not disappointed at all. This series could have been 3-1 in either direction or 2-2. They played a little better. They got the job done and that’s all that matters.”
The Phils blew a lead in the seventh inning in the first game of the series and lost in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday night. Sunday, they were out-hit and out-run. In the three losses to the Dodgers, the Phils were 3 for 24 with runners in scoring position.
On top of the three losses, the Phils also might have lost a pitcher Sunday.
Kyle Kendrick was hit in the back of the head by a Stephen Fife pitch in the sixth inning and was diagnosed with what the Phillies called a mild concussion after the game. He will be checked Monday in Pittsburgh and could miss a start if doctors deem it necessary (see story).
At the end of June last year, the Phillies were 10 games back in the NL East. They ended up trading away outfielders Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence and pitcher Joe Blanton. They played to 14 games over .500 after the All-Star break, but finished just .500 and out of the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Manuel has faith that his team can rally, but he acknowledged that the task is difficult.
“We’ve always been able to go up, but we’ll see,” he said. “This feels different in some ways because of the way we set up with our pitching and things like that.’”
In other words, the Phillies have a young bullpen that sports the worst ERA in the league. The bullpen suffered three late losses in California, one in San Diego and two in Los Angeles.
If Rollins wasn’t disappointed in the series in Los Angeles, he certainly isn’t about to panic over a 9 1/2 games deficit.
Rollins said he has faith.
Some might call it delusion.
“It’s a journey,” he said. “You jump on that plane and enjoy the ride. As long as that plane is in the air, you have a chance to do something. Last I checked, we haven’t made it to the All-Star break. We’ve been in tougher positions with much less time.”
In 2007, the Phils came back from seven games down with 17 to play. We know all about that. But it isn’t 2007 anymore. That team was on the way up, this one looks to be on the way down. Slip a few more games back in the standings and Ruben Amaro Jr.’s decision on whether to start peddling players will become an easy one.